Online sellers receive price fix warning ahead of festive season

Posted by Jasmin Stopford in Personal Finance on 21 November 2016 - Jasmin is a Credit Analyst at checkmyfile

As shoppers prepare for the festive period, online traders have received strict warnings over price fixing.

With the Black Friday discount period nearing, the Competition and Markets Authority are clamping down on anti-competitive behaviour by online sellers. For firms agreeing not to undercut their rivals, the CMA are set to enforce serious consequences.

Stephen Blake, of the CMA’s cartels and criminal group explains, “Online markets are a hugely valuable tool for consumers to shop around and find the best-value products, making the most of effective competition. But these benefits for shoppers are put at risk if the suppliers seek to restrict competition between them. Entering into agreements that limit price competition cheats consumers, is illegal and can have serious consequences for the companies and individuals involved.”

The Competition and Markets Authority revealed that it had already found existing evidence of suspected cartel firms using internet marketplaces such as Amazon and Ebay.

As a result, the CMA wrote to several online companies to notify them that were traders within their company who could be selling customers short by discussing prices with competitors. Included with the letter, the watchdog also provided a checklist of what price fixing is and how to avoid it in the hope that commitment from the companies can help stop collusion.

Online marketplaces have joined forces with the CMA to help distribute its advice to sellers and it is expected that the warnings will reduce any conspiracy amongst sellers, without the expense of the CMA having to carry out a full investigation.

Stephen Blake concludes, “The majority of online sellers want to comply with the law. As we enter the peak shopping months of November and December, sellers should make sure they have read our advice so they don’t get caught out. The consequences for those who don’t can be serious.”

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